I’ve been on Paxil for about ten years. A few weeks ago, in conjunction with my shrink, I started tapering my dose in hopes of going off it entirely.

When I started taking antidepressants about 15 years ago, I was in the middle of an unhappy marriage, struggling between the twin monsters of anxiety and depression. I was miserable for reasons both inherent and external, and I desperately needed the break that medication could give me. When you lock yourself in your studio apartment watching CSI DVDs and come close to chopping your own hair off because you don’t deserve to look pretty, you need it.

I needed a way to let myself breathe. I couldn’t get out from under the thousand-pound Godzilla chasing me from paralyzed inaction to self-destructive behavior. I honestly credit medication and therapy and supportive friends and family with saving my life back then.

But things have changed in the past ten years for me. I’m confident, I know what I want to do with myself and am working actively to make that happen. I found a group of people I’m proud and pleased to know and spend time with. My life is full and happier than I would have thought possible right after my divorce.

So why remove Paxil from the equation? What are you thinking, woman??!?

I’m thinking – I want to feel things again.

Paxil put a huge limiter on my emotions, and when I started it, I needed it. My doctor refers to it as a medical sledgehammer, though. It doesn’t just level my depression and anxiety. It also limits the joys I can feel, the sorrows, the angers. When everything was off the scale, that was fine and well-worth any temporarily moderated reaction to the pleasures and pains of ordinary life. It made everything bearable enough to give me breathing room and time to heal.

Now, I want all that back.

The depression is gone, and I’m on a reasonable daily anti-anxiety medication that seems to be working very well. I want to know if the sledgehammer can be put away now. I want the unfettered joy of letting my purring cat headbutt me in the face in the mornings. I want to ugly-cry at gorgeous theatrical moments (series finale of Six Feet Under, I’m looking at you.) I want to feel angry when I’m being mistreated so I can do something about it. It’s so easy to let people walk all over me when I’m medicated, because it just doesn’t seem like that big a deal. It IS a big deal, and I want to feel the rage that will enable me to put a stop to it.

It’s going to be a long process. My doctor suggested a taper-down schedule that will take a month at least. This is a good thing. I don’t want to deal with some of the seriously unpleasant symptoms of SSRI cessation syndrome, like major disassociation or a return of my depression. If things go south, I’ll be able to go back on the meds and feel better almost immediately.

I hope I don’t need to. I hope I’m in a place where I can handle the unblunted highs and lows of my life.

Look out world. I’m coming back.